Chapter 312: Chapter 34, Episode 3: Novatopia
A whole head appeared from between the corpses.
“As-salamu Alaikum?” Ahmad said as though he was mocking the other person.
There was no way the other person was at “peace.” The b*stard, who was wriggling like a caterpillar, had his right wrist and both ankles stained with blood. The fabric that wrapped the injuries was wet through and through. Ahmad untied the discolored fabric and checked the wounds.
“Ho, the hand of God!”
The bullet had specifically torn the b*stard’s Achilles tendons on both ankles. The surrounding tissues remained untouched. It was unique sniping that only Sir Ddu-bai-buru-pa was capable of since he was someone associated with the realm of Gods. The b*stard was shot amid his run.
“Kunta jaban, you don’t want to die, huh?”
The robber, who seemed to be around 30 years old, looked desperately at him. Ahmad held back the swears that almost left his throat. Sir Ddu-bai-buru-pa had said that those who took other people’s lives should be prepared for their lives to be taken. Still, the b*stard, who took the lives and money of others, was hanging so dearly onto his own. Moreover, he was a coward who had abandoned his friends and fled.
“Bukra Insha’Allah!” Ahmad mocked.
“Bukra Insha’Allah” translated to “I hope that happens next time.” It also meant that there was nothing he could do for the man.
Ahmad decided to stop the b*stard’s wounds from bleeding anyway. He’d have killed the b*stard had Sir Ddu-bai-buru-pa not let him live. The Jeep and herd of camels arrived while he studied the surroundings filled with scattered corpses.
“Ugh, what is this?”
Professor Shernion and Professor Orifice’s complexions turned blue. A severe injury to the head contracted the back muscles. Most corpses’ bodies remained upright. Eyes that were grayish and wide open, white-grayish brain fluids leaking, and blood everywhere—it was an uncommon sight for those who spent most of their time in research labs.
The guards searched the corpses and took their weapons. Jamal was seen wiping the weapons clean off brain fluids and blood with the corpses’ clothes.
Professor Orifice and Professor Shernion bent their backs together.
“Hey Shernion, are we in hell, or is this a nightmare?” Professor Orifice asked with tears in his eyes.
“Manager Ariba said he’s the Angel of Death.”
“Huuuh, forget Angel of Blessings. He really is the Angel of Death.” Professor Orifice shuddered.
The human, who’d tried so hard to save someone’s life just moments ago, had ended several more. He turned to look at Black Mamba. The emotionless Black Mamba sat next to Ahmad, who was questioning a bloodied man. The person who seemed kind looked like the devil all of a sudden.
“Ibrahim, what are we going to do with all these camels?” Mohammad expressed his concern.
There were 52 camels. Camels were expensive and useful animals in the desert. It would be a waste to abandon them, but there was no way to bring them along.
“What else? We should bring them with us. I heard camel meat is delicious.”
Ibrahim had suffered from starvation in the eastern mountain ranges of Hatay. To him, the camel looked like food. Throwing away food would anger Allah.
“Do you know how to ride a camel?”
There was silence.
Ibrahim’s face turned pale. He had become a guerilla in the Hatay mountain ranges and farmed olives in northern Syria. That was his first encounter with a camel.
“It’s a waste to leave them,” Mohammad mumbled.
No one knew how to ride a camel. Mohammad heard a stranger’s voice as he contemplated.
“Thank you for saving me. Tie the lead camel and a female camel in estrus to the Jeep with enough distance on the leash. The rest will follow naturally. A camel can run up to 40 kilometers per hour.”
The patient had regained consciousness.
“Ah, you’re awake?”
“There is no God aside from Allah. Thank you for helping me. I don’t know how to return this grace. The robbers should be after me. You must quickly hide.”
“Our master saved you. You can thank him later. The robbers have been taken care of, so don’t worry.”
The patient’s eyes contested the lantern.
“Please find me the lead camel and the female camel instead.”
“I can’t move my body.” The patient’s expression turned dark.
“Ahmad, tie the leash of those two b*stards and the other one to the Jeep.”
Black Mamba pointed to three camels. He could read an animal’s aura with his dimensional sight. His sensitive senses identified a female camel in estrus.
“What should we do with this b*stard?” Ahmad asked, pointing to the hostage.
“This b*stard worked under Habib once. There’s not much he knows either. Send him respectfully to Allah’s side.”
The desert was empty, which was why the fight for survival was more aggressive. The robbers must have resorted to theft due to the lack of life. Still, stealing wasn’t a justifiable reason. Sending one respectfully to Allah’s side meant a painless death.
A gunshot rang. A hole forced its way into the hostage’s head.
By the time they finished preparing, the sandstone column was drenched in red.
“Orifice, look. Look at that.”
Black Mamba patted Professor Orifice’s lax shoulder.
“Mon dieu, c’est incroyable!”
Professor Orifice, who seemed listless not a moment ago, leaped to his feet. Beyond the dunes that gathered like waves, rays of orange light radiated from the distant horizon. The lower parts of the dark clouds, which had gathered overnight, were dyed red. The towers of sandstone rocks discarded their dark shadows and wore a golden shell. Even the small and large rocks scattered around the ground exuded a dark red glow. The magnificent light colored the sky and poured over to the ground.
“Oh, God. It’s a scene from Genesis creation!” Professor Shernion, who was in sensory overload, shouted.
Heaven and Earth became one under light, and spaces were created between spaces. The sound of the angels’ trumpets was heard from the sky, and life ran about on Earth. It was a mirror image of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. He automatically gasped in admiration at the majestic view.
“I did well, coming to Africa,” Professor Orifice mumbled.
When he was first offered a partnership with Chad greenery, a government project, he didn’t agree immediately. Not only was he bored of his daily routine, but he’d also never stepped on African soil. Africa, which was called the dark continent, was physically and mentally distant. Titles such as the land of martyrs, the continent of riddles, the land of civil war and corruption, the land of ambition, and the land of cannibals had held him back from reaching a decision.
That was when manager Ariba had approached him. He was told that the wild environment, the majestic scenes, and a certain someone would take him by surprise. It was true. He was surprised by both the person and nature. Africa was a land of surprises.
The 41 corpses with leaking brain fluids became a thing of the past. The majestic scene was his present. Humans were beings who lived in the present.
“Special military advisor, I see the scouting team’s equipment!” the sergeant on the wheel shouted in joy.
Around a dozen large trucks were lined up in rows in the field ahead. Those trucks had reconnaissance equipment stocked inside. The driver almost lost his nerve from trying to drive the Jeep at a camel’s pace.
Black Mamba smiled at the driver, acknowledging his efforts.
“What is that!” a communications soldier shouted as he looked at the herd of running camels.
“It’s the enemy! Get ready for battle!” lieutenant Pellpeng, the leader of the scouting team, shouted.
If a herd of camels came rushing at you in the Sahara, it was most definitely robbers, no questions asked.
The scouting team of the 11th Airborne Brigade descended into chaos amid their breakfast. They threw down their C-rations and hid behind the rocks and trucks. A Jeep with a 50-caliber Browning medium machine gun jumped out.
Black Mamba smiled bitterly. They were about to be shot with their allies’ bullets. He had forgotten about the satellite phone, unable to relay the message that he was bringing over a herd of camels in time. His urgency to return to Korea had ruined the scouting team’s breakfast. It was awkward to pull out the phone now that they were right before him.
The Jeep stopped.
“Oh, that man’s starting again.”
When the Jeep stopped, Professor Orifice shot out as though he was rolling.
“Ugh, I’d rather die than be sick again.” Professor Orifice complained about the unsightly scene again.
The lingering sour aftertaste of his vomit upset his stomach once more. Pedology and botany were both fields of manual labor. People spent more time running around the field rather than sitting in a laboratory. Although he’d been confident, he found it hard to adjust to Africa’s harsh climates and rough journeys.
“It’s hard, isn’t it?”
Aishe patted the professor’s back. She should offer him a little service since she ripped 200 francs off him.
Urk, what kind of woman’s hands is this!
Professor Orifice swallowed his scream. Those weren’t gentle hands. He felt as though an iron hammer was coming down on his back.
“Scouting team, is it? I’m the special military advisor, Sbard Gulbeig!” A roar sounded in the desert.
Had it been night-time, they would have shot him blind.
“The Seine river is 100 times more beautiful than River Thames!” lieutenant Pellpeng shouted over the loudspeaker.
“Bordeaux wine is nectar, and scotch whiskey is water!” Black Mamba responded to the childish code and smiled.
Geographically adjacent countries rarely got along well. Historically, France and England didn’t have many precedents of good relations. From the conflict over territorial issues surrounding the successions of the throne, the colonial wars that grew violent since the 17th century, and the recent issue of defining Dover Strait’s continental shelf, it could be said that they constantly fought. Of course, there was no ethnic resentment and disgust, unlike Korea and Japan’s relationship. The relationship they had was a cooperative and competitive one.
“Act! I’m lieutenant Pellpeng of the scouts.”
“Special military advisor.”
Lieutenant Pellpeng looked at Black Mamba with confusion in his eyes. He had heard that the special military advisor was a station above the vice-minister. However, the person before him was a young 20-year-old Asian. He was baffled since he had been expecting a man in his 50s.
“Is there a scorpion on my face or something?”
“Ah, no, sir. Why are the camels here? We almost shot you down by mistake.” Pellpeng looked away quickly.
“I picked them up on the way over.”
“Picked them up? Kekeke!”
Professor Orifice and Professor Shernion started laughing. Pellpeng decided not to ask any further. He’d received orders from the higher-ups to do everything that the special military advisor asked. Although he was uncomfortable, as though a thorn was stuck in his throat, it was a fact that ranks overpowered everything.
“Why did you station yourselves here?”
“We were headed toward Longor of Ennedi Plateau, but while we were moving, we received orders to meet up with you, military advisor.”
Black Mamba nodded. Ariba must have ordered that.
“Is there a pool of water nearby?”
Water was a necessity for the setup of base camps.
“There’s no water within a radius of 30 kilometers. We need to find groundwater.”
“How do you find that?”
“We use Vertical Electrical Sounding(VES). Electricity is sent into the ground from the surface. Geological structures are identified by measuring the resistance of the electric current as it passes through stones, soil, and groundwater.”
“It’ll take some time to measure and check individual resistance changes then.”
“Yes. It takes around 10 days to sample a square region with a width of 500 meters.”
“Ha, it’ll take an eternity to just search for groundwater. What’s the accuracy rate and the capacity of this investigation?”
“We can check up to 500 meters with the equipment we have. The accuracy rate is around 20 percent. If it’s blocked by a thick bedrock, the accuracy drops further, sir.”
So, even if you suffered to find all these potential locations, you only succeed two times out of 10?
Black Mamba freaked out. If it took 10 days to investigate 0.25 square kilometers, it meant that investigating 25,000 square kilometers would take close to 2,800 years. Even if he could dig out potential power sources by referring to the geological survey data, it wasn’t easy to find groundwater.
There were two kinds of groundwater. Water flowed through the topsoil of about 10 meters deep, between the surface of the bedrocks and beneath the topsoil. It was small in volume, and water that had infiltrated the surface was not for consumption since there was no proper filtration.
Groundwater usually flowed through the fracture zones and bedrocks that were 100 meters below the surface layer. Finding the fracture zones alone increased the possibility of obtaining substantial volumes of groundwater.
“Finding groundwater should be our priority then. Camels should drink water too. What are the chances of finding an aquifer like that of Libya?”
“It’s hard to find, but I’d say there’s a high chance. The Ennedi Plateau are layers of accumulated sandstones that are over 1,000,000,000s of years old. There’s a possibility of a large aquifer existing underground. As long as we find a fracture zone, it increases the possibility of finding an aquifer. We should be able to find it in three years.”
“Three years?” Black Mamba’s eyes grew wide.
“Yes, sir. I’ve received orders to cooperate with you, military advisor, for three years.”
Black Mamba was Korean. Koreans were used to the fast-paced system. The fact that they would be searching for an aquifer for three years left him astounded.
“Where is your immediate water supply, then?”
“There’s a water source 170 kilometers away in Longor. We’re planning to move back and forth using a water tank vehicle.”
The area of the Ennedi Plateau was estimated to be 110,000 square kilometers, a little wider than that of Korea. It was estimated because there was no accurate data, and the borders between countries were unclear. Although there were many valleys and springs scattered around the large area, only wild animals and other creatures used it due to the high salinity and limited water flow.
“That will be a 340-kilometer round trip. It’s a great loss.” Black Mamba shook his head.
“Help us pick a location, sir, so that we can proceed with the investigation. We can always move the camp after setting up the overall structure.”
Lieutenant Pellpeng spread out a 1:7,000 tactical map.
Black Mamba marked a dot 10 kilometers north-west of Ounianga Kébir and drew a diagonal line toward Agbaya in Ennedi Plateau. He drew a line from deep within Ennedi Plateau to Fada, then connected the line north-east to the Tibesti mountain ranges. He drew out a 290 kilometers by 87 kilometers long rectangle.
 Cowardly b*stard.